As the result of a typographical error, an American professor currently living in China was misidentified in an article on Jan. 12. His correct name is Michael Gasster.

Publicists are leaning hard on symbolic values on this trip of U.S. Defense Secretary Harold Brown and Brown was his usual accommodating self when he started to climb out of a Chinese submarine here today.

It was certainly the first such vessel of the proletariat ever to hold America's chief war minister, and the U.S. television correspondents covering the trip dashed away to find their cameras and record the event.

"Please wait about 10 minutes, Mr. Secretary," an aide said, as Brown fidgeted in the cramped, machinery-filled chamber of the dark blue sub, tied up at the Wuchang shipbuilding facility. The cameras arrived. Brown emerged from the hatch on cue.

"Are you sending a message to the Soviets?" one TV reporter asked. "I don't think they expect either me or a Chinese sub to surface in the Moscow river," Brown replied. "U.S.-China friendship is not aimed against anyone, it is for peace and stability."

The United States and China have formed no military alliance on this trip, and nothing like that was expected. Both sides want to show their joint opposition to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but coordinated military action seems to much to cautious mandarins on both sides of the Pacific.

The Chinese, proceeding carefully, changed their official translation of a statement Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping made earlier this week. To brown, Deng suggested not an "alliance" of all the world's countries against the Soviets, but just that they should "unite" against Moscow.

The small steps taken here, however, as they have before in Sino-American relations, could grow into something unexpected.

"If you told me 18 months ago I would be touring a Chinese submarine factory with the U.S. secretary of defense, I would not have believed it," said one American official.

Brown noted that the Wuchang plant produced both submarines and passenger vessels, making the point that civilian technical skills the Americans pass on can someday have military uses. This, he says, is not intended as a threat to the Soviets.

"Sino-American friendship is not directed against any third country," said a high American official traveling with Brown. He snickered as he said it.

Jiang Dajin, a 60-year-old chief engineer, is the token Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate at the Wuchang plant. Proud alumni of American universities pop up in China with increasing frequency as U.S.-Chinese relations make the connection less politically embarrassing. Short and plump, wearing blue workers clothes Jiang attracted much attention from the horde of Americans with Brown.

Gerald P. Dineen, former MIT professor and now principal deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, compared notes with Jiang and discussed their days in Cambridge.

Jiang came to the university in 1944, earned a masters of science in two years, then worked for a while as a trainee engineer at a shipyard in Newark, N.J. He returned to China in 1948, and stayed after the communist victory to work in Dallen and then, since 1957, Wuhan.

Jiang said no one troubled him, as other specialists with American connections were troubled, during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. The bewildered jargon that he and Dineen tossed back and forth provided a clue, for Jiang was helping give the Chinese military a submarine force. For such people there were always high-placed protectors.

This huge riverside industrial city of 3.6 million, often described as China's Pittsburgh, now has at least eight American residents, divided among several universitites where they serve as researchers and English teachers.

Gail Henderson and her husband Dr. Mike Cohen, do medical research, while their nine-month old daughter goes around in the customary Chinese split pants, since no diapers are available.

Prof. Michael Sasster of Rutgers and his son Josh, 19, live at the Central China Teachers Institute. Sasster plumbs the mysteries of the 1911 revolution, which began here, and his son, learns Chinese and makes friends among the students.

At Wuhan university, in the space of a year, four Americans and a Canadian married to one of them have arried to teach English.

By popular demand, they have lectured on such Western mysteries as the Bible, the women's movement and U.S. student life. Also, while the rest of the university faculty worked on, the Americans demanded and got two weeks off at Christmas.

"It's part of our cultural heritage," said Paula Campbell.